Day…__…what day is it? Pandemic Journal Entry #1.

I read somewhere to keep a journal during the pandemic. I’m thinking this week has sucked and I’d like to forget it. But if it helps someone else in the future trying to learn about the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic read on.
I’m all set with the pandemic situation. That could move on.

I never appreciated or craved my normal life as badly as I do now.

I transitioned all my clients to telehealth. For one week. Still working on next week and the week after.

All the major insurers actually stepped up to the plate and said they are accepting all claims for telehealth whether they’ve approved the provider or not (except for Anthem, shocker. Fuck Anthem). They recognize that there’s a damn pandemic and people are freaking out.

Add the panic e-mails from the hospital I work at assessing every one’s skillset as stories are coming out of Italy of eye doctor’s learning to use a ventilator.

This week I’ve ranged from calm to panic to despair back to calm again.

My therapist told me he has to close his practice for the time being due to the financial strain of COVID-19 causing half his caseload to cancel. I felt incredibly heartbroken for him to be in that situation, terrified that the same thing would happen to me and my practice, and also like wtf. It took me a year to find a therapist who was good and who I didn’t know professionally. Selfishly I was like now I have to find a new one?! During a freaking pandemic?!

Then much of my caseload canceled or rescheduled this week- some because I was waiting on Anthem BCBS to approve me for telehealth- others because they thought this would just pass and we could schedule out for two weeks.

I may have freaked out moderately. But then today I saw 16 patients, all remote, between the hospital in the first half of the day and my practice the second half of the day.

Me seeing inpatient psychiatric patients remotely was a first. It went well for me. The patient’s didn’t seem to mind. One was actually quite happy to see my cat who strutted in front of the camera at one point.

This week has been a new reality. So many unknowns. Lots of pressure to maintain my practice, an income, and support my colleagues working inpatient.

I don’t think my life will ever be the same which sounds dramatic but if anything, this week has shown the fragility of our every day existence and how interconnected we are and how dependent I am on others for my income.

There are too many proposals and not enough action. I’ve read many proposals about freezing student debt and credit card interest but not seen anything set in stone about it. I don’t want to fall behind in making payments to any one or anything but at the same time I’m worried that we won’t have a steady income.

Childcare is a freaking issue. They are with me all the time. ALL the time. We’ve had our neighbors and my mom helping out, but it’s not like I can leave when they are here. I see clients in my home office, and shut the door. I can still hear them. ALL the time.

I’m an introvert. I need my space. My office. My alone time. My time away from home and kids. I feel constantly overstimulated and I’m ready for a break from them.

The first week has been a blur of figuring out how to transition my practice to an entirely different platform and also work inpatient remotely. My wife and I are in constant fear that we will lose everything. I’m pretty sure every one in America in the middle class is feeling the same way as that topic takes up the majority of my sessions with patients.

The phone started ringing today for intakes. It was silent for a few days which also terrified me. But now people are realizing that this is the new normal, they are panicking worse than normal because of the pandemic, and they still need mental healthcare.

For now I’m lucky to have that job security and incredibly blessed and grateful to be able to transition my practice to remote health. I’m grateful I can be here with my kids even though I’m sticking them in front of Disney + for far too long while I see patients upstairs. It doesn’t feel sustainable. I hope it’s not. I hope life gets back to normal soon. But unfortunately I’m not stupid. I see the numbers and the timelines and I fear this is only the beginning.

There will be many more deaths. More illnesses. And many more days working remotely.

Some of my top pandemic moments weeks 1:

1- Rounds with an Attending, LCSW, nurse, nurse manager etc. I’m remote on the screen. Both my sons run in and poke their heads onto the screen. They then start chatting. I think I mute the screen. I hustle my kids out the door telling them to be good and I’ll get them a donut, and to go watch Spiderman, and yes I love them too, and No that wasn’t Mama’s patients, now please just stop talking, go downstairs, No donut if you say poopybutt again, I’m sick of it Declan, stop saying poopybutt and gross Jackson quit licking me, just come on….etc. I sit back down. All eyes are on me. I hadn’t pressed mute.

2- Patient clicks in to join the video session. “Hi! Uh, wait are you driving?!” “Yeah, don’t worry I’m getting off the exit, right…up…here….we can start though!” Literally started talking about their meds while driving.

3- Patient clicked in. In bed. Under covers. Just waking up. It’s 3 PM. “Well I made it to the session!” me- “You seriously couldn’t get out of bed and at least pretend you’ve been up for ten minutes?” them- “It’s a pandemic what do you want from me?!”

4- “Mama are you done seeing patients?” Me “No, just taking a quick break” he looks at my wife, “Yeah she does this at Gramma’s house too. Lots of breaks.” then he rolled his eyes! Freaking four year olds.

5. My business partner talking me off a ledge. Multiple times. Some of her words to me “Calm down.” “It’s the flu calm down” “Get a grip.” “Send yourself some Xanax” “You’ve lost your mind” “You’re a mess about nothing” me “It’s a PANDEMIC” Another frequent exchange between us- as in daily sometimes twice daily we just randomly text each other two words. “Fuck Anthem.” No explanations ever needed.

6. The best news of my week which I texted to my wife “Our liquor store is delivery only!!!”

7. At some point I drank wine and made double chocolate chip cookies. They were amazing.

These are light moments in dark times. Stick to the light to lead you through the dark.